Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 5/21/14

One of the specialties at Bowra is the Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush a mainly terrestrial inhabitant of stony areas with scrubby bushes, particular mulga, in dry, but not desert, parts of western Queensland and NSW with a widely-separated population in Western Australia. It has suffered in eastern Australia from habitat clearance, but can usually be found at Bowra in an area called the Stony Ridge on the road that runs west of the homestead. This location, incidentally is also good for another specialty, Hall’s Babbler.

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma castaneothorax)  by Ian

Quail-thrushes are shy and either sit tight and flush suddenly with a quail-like whirring of their wings or run for cover. The Chestnut-breasted usually runs, but this time we unwittingly encircled this male bird which took refuge in a dead tree, the first time I’ve seen any quail-thrush do so. It looked confused rather than alarmed and wandered for a long time from branch to branch providing unusually good opportunities for photography until it hopped down onto the ground and ran away. On this occasion we saw only the brightly coloured male; females have more subdued colours, brown replacing the all the black plumage except the spotty wing coverts and rely on camouflage to escape detection when nesting on the ground. Quail-thrushes feed on both insects and seeds and there are an Australasian taxon with about four species in Australia and one in New Guinea.

Chestnut Quail-thrush by Ian

Chestnut Quail-thrush by Ian

Quail-thrushes presumably get the quail part of their name from their terrestrial habits and whirring flight and the thrush part from their body shape. Cinclosoma is bird-taxonomy-speak for thrush in a confused sort of way. Confused because the Latin cinclus means thrush but derives from the Greek Kinklos a waterside bird of unknown type mentioned by Aristotle and others and though to be either an Old World Wagtail or a wader. To add to the confusion, Cinclidae refers to the Dipper family, not the thrushes, with Cinclus cinclus being the Eurasian White-breasted Dipper.


White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) by Ian

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) by Ian


The confusion continues with actual taxonomy. The western race of the Chestnut-breasted is sometimes (IOC) treated as a separate species, the Western Quail-thrush. Meanwhile the geographically intermediate and closely-related Cinnamon Quail-thrush of central Australia desert country is sometimes split in two as well, with the Nullabor race being treated as a separate species, though it has also been lumped with the Chestnut-breasted. If that’s not enough, Birdlife International puts the Quail-thrushes in a family of their own, the Cinclosomatidae, while Birdlife Australia and the IOC lump with the Whipbirds and called them Psophodidae. (Birdlife International use to lump them and call them the Eupetidae.) I though you’d like to know! Let’s just enjoy the photos:

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Lee’s Addition:

The people asked, and He brought quail, And satisfied them with the bread of heaven. (Psa 105:40)

Thanks, Ian, for introducing us to another interesting bird. Your timing is perfect, as I am away from my computer for a few days.

Ian’s Bird of the Week
Odontophoridae – New World Quail Family